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The Q? Blog

Journey Back through Time on National Fossil Day, October 15

by Amy Bolton -- Sep 25, 2014
Photo of Amy Bolton collecting fossils in Montana.

Amy is the manager of Deep Time education and outreach, a role that includes developing activities and programs around paleontology and serving on the team...

This fossil Triceratops skull was found in Montana. Photo from Smithsonian Institution.
This fossil Triceratops skull was found in Montana. Photo from Smithsonian Institution.

Fossils can help us imagine things from the past we cannot see in front of us.  They can tell us how an ancient plant or animal lived or moved, how groups of organisms evolved, and how organisms relate to each other.  They also help us recreate from long ago what an ancient environment looked like, the players in a food web, and the climate of a particular time and place. Fossils can be as big as a T. rex or as small as a grain of pollen, but together they paint a rich and diverse picture of the history of life that began on the planet more than 3.5 billion years ago.  

Looking through the fossil record is like taking a journey back in time to discover environments and animals that were on Earth long before humans came onto the scene.  And it’s not just one or two different environments or a handful of strange creatures you would discover on that journey; rather you would find that the Earth and its inhabitants have been changing and evolving since the very beginning of the planet—and continue to do so today.  

Dig in to the world of the paleontology on National Fossil DayTM, Wednesday, Oct. 15, and see for yourself what fossils can reveal about past worlds, plants, and animals. Join us at the Museum along with the National Park Service, American Geosciences Institute, Maryland Dinosaur Park, and many other organizations that feature paleontology and geology.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. you can talk to scientists and other experts, dig for and draw fossils, and use the tools and techniques that paleontologists use to study fossils and reveal their secrets.  All the fun takes place on the ground floor of the Museum and in Q?rius, the new interactive and experimental learning space.

All events are free and open to the public. There’s something for every age group.

Activities include:

  • Sifting for Fossils – Take on the role of a paleontologist by searching through sand to find and identify marine fossils.
  • Ask a Paleontologist – Talk with museum and U. S. Geological Survey scientists about their research and what it’s like to be a paleontologist.
  • Fossil Illustration – Work with scientific illustrators to learn how to draw fossils and reconstruct ancient plants and animals using fossil evidence.
  • Paleo Art: Fossil Rubbings – Become a scientific illustrator and make your own fossil rubbings of ancient trilobites, shells and plants to take home.
  • Shark!! – Explore a variety of fossil shark teeth and learn more about the early history of sharks.
  • FossiLab – Learn how specialists extract fossils from rock, sift microfossils from gravel and sand, and rebuild fossils found in many pieces.
  • Explore the Q?rius Fossil Collection – Q?rius has hundreds of fossils that visitors can handle. From dinosaurs to trilobites, sharks, and ancient plants and insects, the Q? collection will take you around the world and through time.

Have you been to National Fossil DayTM events before? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

Volunteer Opportunity: 'The Last American Dinosaurs' Exhibit Guide

Are you a good communicator who is interested in paleontology? Consider volunteering as a guide in the new exhibit, "The Last American Dinosaurs: Discovering a Lost World," which opens in November 2014.

Categories: Q?rius News
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